Sophia He is currently a high school student going into tenth grade in the fall of 2020. She is a student at Newton Country Day School, which is a Catholic girls school located in Newton, Massachusetts. Sophia, however, was born in Shanghai, China. She lived there until she came to the U.S. to study when she was entering seventh grade.
While Sophia was living in China, she went to normal Chinese public schools without an English-speaking environment. When she was four years old, her mom brought Sophia along to the U.S. for a year. Sophia’s one-year kindergarten experience in the U.S. provided her with a foundation of the English language and western culture. However, her mom finished her work after a year and Sophia returned to China and continued her study within the Chinese educational system.
Ever since Sophia was little, she showed that she was comfortable having conversations with different people. Starting with greeting family friends and talking with strangers in the neighborhood, Sophia experienced human connection through conversations in a world where mobile technology did not prevail.
Throughout the time Sophia lived in China, her parents also brought her to places around the world to travel, especially English-speaking countries. She has been to England, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand besides the U.S. and has had living experiences in each country for around a month or more. Her trips to those countries allowed her to become familiar with different cultures and formed her as someone more open, empathetic, and with critical thinking.
The summer Sophia was about to enter seventh grade, she came to the U.S. to study. The American educational system provided Sophia with the opportunity to learn knowledge she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, such as U.S. history and world history. Being in a foreign environment, Sophia found that learning about a country’s past helps with understanding its present. Through her studies, she slowly began to understand the current American society and people’s actions. She enjoys drawing connections between past events and current-day issues, and when sticking her nose in a history textbook and listening to John Green on YouTube no longer satisfied her, she remembered human connection. She longs to hear the unique perspectives of others on issues, and in such a fast-paced society today, she simply wants to connect with others on a deeper level. Around this time, luckily, Sophia was introduced by her friend Peilin to Living Room Conversations, a nonprofit organization that creates a safe space for human connection through conversations. She immediately got involved and started her journey at LRC from there.
After joining in discussions on the LRC platform, Sophia found the human connection she originally desired under the atmosphere of mutual respect between participants of a conversation created by LRC guidelines. She was especially moved by the respect given to her by participants of the conversation who were older than her and truly learned more by listening to people from different age groups.
Being inspired by the many leaders on the LRC platform who host or co-host their conversations and after talks with her friend Peilin, Sophia thought about the aspect of media polarization and racial discrimination under the context of coronavirus and wondered what others had to say about this topic. Therefore, she and her friend Peilin wrote a conversation guide together addressing the sub-issues under the topic of media polarization and racial discrimination under the context of the coronavirus. Later, this conversation guide was incorporated into the coronavirus Race and Ethnicities Series of LRC.
This was only the first step that Sophia undertook to use her voice as an Asian, a female, and a youth. Sophia strongly believes that “Our generation of youth born in the 2000s are the future leaders. The sense of empowerment and connection that we share will help us achieve bigger goals together. Youths may not see the benefits of civic dialog that visibly, which is why it’s so important for youth pioneers to share their experiences and what they have learned participating in these conversations,” as she said in an interview with the LRC media. Sophia hopes to maximize her voice to inspire others to do the same and optimize the space for communication where people of all ages, all races and ethnicities, and all genders can offer their unique voices.